Serves: 5



Every culture and every cuisine of the world uses grains in cooking. And for good reason: grains are versatile, offer a wealth of nutrients (including fiber and protein and are low in fat and have zero cholesterol), provide texture, are economical and can be used in just about any dish for any meal. Grains aren’t just a meat substitute, they’re a whole exciting way of cooking. Classic dishes such as polenta, risotto and pilaf a just part of the repertoire. This chapter features grains usually cooked as a side dish. If you’re just learning about grains, you’ll find the information right here: what they look and taste like, how to cook them and what recipes to use them in.

Selecting Grains:

You’ll find a wonderful selection of grains in your local supermarket, ethnic food markets, health food stores and food co-ops. They’re available packaged as well as in bulk, plain and in seasoned dry mixes, frozen and refrigerated and in many forms from whole kernels to finely ground flours.

Storing Grain:

Uncooked: Most grains will keep indefinitely but are best when used within 1 to 2 years. Store them in their original packaging or in airtight glass or
plastic containers label the container with the date you filled it.

Store in a cool (60°or less), dry place. All grains can be refrigerated or frozen, which is a good idea if you live in a hot, humid climate. Whole grains that contain oil (brown rice, stone-ground or whole-grain cornmeal, wheat berries, wheat germ and whole wheat flour) can become rancid and must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer store up to 6 months.

Cooked: Tightly cover cooked grains and put in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Freeze them in airtight containers for up to 6 months. Leftover long-grain rice will become firmer when refrigerated, making it perfect to use in fried rice. But for other uses, you will want to reheat and soften it using one of these methods:
- In a microwavable container, add 1 tablespoon water per cup of cooked grain, tightly cover and microwave on High for 1 to 2 minutes.
- In a covered saucepan, add 2 tablespoons water per cup of cooked grain, and heat over low heat.
- Place frozen or refrigerated cooked grain in a colander, and pouring boiling water over it until warm.

Grains Glossary

White Rice:
- Regular long-grain rice: Has been milled to remove the hull, germ and most of the bran. About 90 percent of the rice produced in the United States is enriched. It’s available in both long and short grains. The shorter the grain, the stickier the cooked rice will be therefore, long grain is a better all-purpose rice.

- Converted (parboiled) rice: Is steamed and pressure cooked before being milled and polished. This process retains more nutrients but hardens the grain, so it takes longer to cook than regular rice. It also removes excess starch, so the grains stay separate after cooking.

- Instant (precooked) rice: Is commercially cooked, rinsed and dried before packaging, resulting in a very short cooking time. White, brown and wild rice all are available in this form.

- Arborio (Italian or risotto) rice: Is shorter, fatter and has a higher starch content than regular short-grain rice. Originally from northern Italy, Arborio is preferred for making risotto, a classic rice dish. As it cooks, the rice releases starch to give the dish its distinctive creamy texture.

- Aromatic rices: Contain a natural ingredient that gives them their nutty or perfumy smell and taste. The quality of the fragrance can differ from year to year it also intensifies as the rice ages. Aromatic rices include basmati, wild pecan rice, Wehani rice and popcorn rice. Texmati, a cross between long-grain and basmati rices Kalijiara, a rice one-third the size of basmati and jasmine, similar to basmati but much less expensive.

- Brown rice: Unpolished rice with only the outer hull removed. It has a slightly firm texture and nutlike flavor, and it takes longer to cook than regular long-grain rice. If you’re in a hurry, you’ll be glad to know that instant brown rice is available, too. Because the germ and outer hull haven’t been removed, brown rice has more fiber and other nutrients.

- Wild rice: The seed of a grass that grows in marshes and rivers. Very dark greenish brown in color, it has a distinctive nutlike flavor and chewy texture. It’s often found in rice mixtures with white or brown rice.

Other Grains
- Barley: One of the first grains ever cultivated. Pearl barley, the most common variety, has been steamed and polished it’s good in soups, stews and served as a side dish like rice is. Barley is available in both regular and quick-cooking varieties.

- Bulgur and cracked wheat: Made from whole wheat kernels. To make bulgur, wheat kernels are steamed, dried and crushed into coarse fragments. Cracked wheat is from kernels that are cleaned, then cracked or cut into fine fragments. Bulgur and cracked wheat are often used as breakfast cereals, and they appear in many Middle Eastern dishes.

- Cornmeal: Crushed dried corn kernels that can be blue, yellow or white, depending on the variety of corn used. It may be either commercially or stone ground stone ground is more nutritious because it still contains some of the hull and germ of the corn. Although cornmeal is available in fine, medium and coarse textures, only one type is generally available in most supermarkets. Grits is a very coarse-ground cornmeal.

- Kasha: Also called buckwheat groats, it is the kernel inside the buckwheat seed. It’s roasted for a toasty, nutty flavor, then coarsely ground.

- Millet: A small, round, yellow seed that looks like whole mustard seed. Rich in protein, this tiny grain has a chewy texture and mild flavor similar to brown rice. It’s good whole as a hot cereal and is the base for dishes such as pilaf. It’s also ground as a flour for puddings, cakes and breads.

- Quinoa (keen-wa): An ancient grain native to South America where the Incas called it “the mother grain.” Quinoa is higher in protein than any other grain and is actually a complete protein. This creamy white, tiny, bead-shaped grain has a light texture and delicate flavor. Look for quinoa in larger supermarkets and health food stores.

- Triticale: A cross between wheat and rye. It’s more nutritious than either wheat or rye and is a blend of wheat’s nutlike flavor and rye’s chewy texture. It’s available in berries, flakes and flour. Whole triticale can be cooked as cereal and used in casseroles and pilafs.

- Wheat berries: Hulled whole kernels of wheat. Presoaking is necessary so they’ll be tender enough to eat. Because they contain the entire wheat kernel, they take longer to cook and are high in nutritional value. They’re eaten as a breakfast cereal and as a replacement for beans in chili, salads and baked dishes. They’re also sprouted. Look for wheat berries in health food stores.

Basic Directions for Cooking Rice and Other Grains
1. Use 1 cup uncooked grain, and rinse only if directed to on the package. Be sure to use an extra-fine mesh strainer for tiny grains, such as quinoa.
2. Use a 2-quart saucepan for 1 cup of uncooked grain.
3. For liquid besides water, try broth (chicken, beef, vegetable) or half vegetable or fruit juice. Add salt, if desired, using 1/2 teaspoon per 1 cup of grain.
4. Cook or soak. Do not remove lid or stir during cooking.
5. After cooking, fluff with fork, lifting grains to release steam.

Note: Grains lose moisture with age, so more or less liquid than the recipe calls for may be needed. If all the liquid is absorbed but the grain isn’t quite tender, add a little more liquid and cook longer. If the grain is tender but all the liquid hasn’t been absorbed, just drain.

Tips for Cooking Rice
- For perfect rice, measure the water and rice carefully.
- Rinse rice only if directed to on the package or instructed in the recipe.
- Stirring makes for sticky and starchy rice. So don’t stir rice during cooking, unless of course you are making risotto-this is the exception!
- Add flavor to rice and grains by cooking them in beef, chicken or vegetable broth, or apple, orange, pineapple or tomato juice. Use half water and half flavored liquid of the amount of liquid called for.
- If rice is going to be cooked again, such as in a casserole, you can make a firmer rice by decreasing the liquid (by 2 to 4 tablespoons) and cooking time. For softer rice, add more liquid (2 to 3 tablespoons) and cook a few minutes longer. Or let the rice stand covered for 10 minutes after cooking.
- If rice is still wet after cooking, cook it uncovered over low heat for a few minutes.
- Fluff rice after cooking with a fork to separate the grains. Stirring it with a spoon can make it sticky.
- For easy cleanup, fill the saucepan with cold water and let it soak.
- Both electric and nonelectric rice cookers are available and becoming more popular for cooking rice. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
- You can cook rice in the microwave, but it’s no time-saver. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or the microwave directions on the rice package.

From "Betty Crocker's Complete Cookbook, Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today, 9th Edition." Text Copyright 2000 General Mills, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This GRAINS BASICS recipe is from the Betty Crocker's Cookbook, 9th Edition Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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